Paige Iseminger of Festy Besty and Freshie on never getting comfortable in your business and the importance of following your dreams
Describe your business in a few words?
Freshie is an Organic Tequila Seltzer that is sustainably farmed & distilled in Jalisco, Mexico.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
It all started a few years after college. I was in the corporate world of Chicago, grinding away every single day for a job that I had no passion towards. Every night when my husband Ryne & I came home from work we would brainstorm ideas of businesses that we could start on the side. We both were exhausted and felt defeated working day-in day-out towards other people’s dreams, so we knew we had to take the leap but just didn’t know where to begin. Then one day my boss called me in and told me that they were eliminating my position and unfortunately had to lay me off. Most people would have been devastated, but not me. I saw that as a sign that I had to follow my gut, and do something that actually fulfilled me because that job certainly was not it. At that time Ryne & I had a small savings account that we had been building, so we both left our corporate jobs and went to Florida for a few weeks to clear our mind to find our true inspiration.
At this time, there were two major trends happening around us: Music Festivals and Instagram. In fact, music festivals and live music really became our social scene in Chicago and our way to connect with our creative side while balancing our corporate careers. Our time in Florida gave us our Ah-Ha moment to start our first business Festy Besty. I made a flower headband by hand for a Mumford & Sons concert and literally got stopped constantly about the headband. Keep in mind, this was at the infancy stage of the flower headband craze that was about to hit the Music Festival fashion scene. Not only were girls asking about my headband but they were complimenting my whole fit and wanted to know where I got each piece. Ryne and I went home that night and felt so inspired and our wheels were turning about how we could make our entry into music festival fashion. We came up with the name Festy Besty with the goal of creating an online shop to cater to the fast growing need for trendy insta worthy festival outfits. We didn’t know how to design graphics, didn’t have enough money to make T-shirts or actual clothes to sell, and no idea how to create a website, but I could make flower headbands! The next day I went to Micheals and bought silk flowers and materials to make my first real batch of flower headbands to be sold. We created our Instagram account @festybesty and posted our first pic. To our surprise we immediately started getting likes, followers, messages, and people wanted to buy these flower headbands. Our account began to really grow and our followers were truly embodying the positive vibes of the brand. Now we realized we actually had something happening on this newish platform… Instagram. What do we know? We hit the road and toured with some of the biggest music festivals in the country. We grew our humble offering of flower headbands and 1 crop top to full collection drops and eventually launched our most popular products to date, the Super-Air footwear collection. Each summer we grew our collections, built out more impressive pop up shops at festivals, and evolved the Festy Besty brand into our wildest dreams.
Festy Besty over the years taught us so much from social media to web design, graphic design to manufacturing and sourcing. Also the music festival scene really opened our minds to a new way of thinking. We met so many interesting people and positive characters on our tours. One thing we noticed was the wellness trend that seemed to be growing within a scene usually known for partying. Vegan food trucks, Smoothie Bars, Poke Bowls were now the new offerings instead of corn dogs. This may sound funny but all this leads to our next Ah-Ha moment which is that millennial and Gen-Z generations like to party but they also like healthier options too. Even though we may have been cash strapped entrepreneurs we always tried to shop Organic and Non-GMO. Why should this mentality stop at food? It didn’t for us… we made our cocktails with organic ingredients too. One cocktail in particular became our staple at festivals, in the backyard with friends and family, the beach, and pretty much anywhere, that is Ryne’s recipe of Tequila, Lime, Agave Nectar and Sparkling Water. Freshie we called it and it stuck! Amongst our friend group it was just known to come over with Limes, Sparkling Water and Tequila and we are drinking Freshies. Meanwhile at these hangouts Ryne was always making them by hand which meant he would be stuck in the kitchen mixing and squeezing for the whole party. My family has been going to Puerto Vallarta, MX my whole life so the Mexican culture was always a part of our spirit. Freshie was such a hit within our social circle and our love for Mexico really fueled the passion for the brand to the point we couldn’t resist embarking on another start up journey. We found so much joy in sharing Freshie with our friends and family that we had to share it with the world! So we took the leap & started Freshie!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Growing up my dad started his sales career in the corporate world. However, he always had a passion for entrepreneurship at a very young age which led him to start multiple businesses on the side while still climbing the corporate ladder. I vividly remember being so inspired by his work ethic, creativity, and his ability to always think outside the box. My dad was always my best friend & mentor, and I was always his little sidekick. Anything he did, I usually tried to copy so it only made sense for me to grow up with the passion for entrepreneurship & design as well. I always told my friends & family that I was going to go college for fashion, and when I graduated I was going to move to California and start my own fashion line. My sisters were also very much into fashion, but advised me to get a business degree instead of a fashion degree if I was really serious about starting my own business one day. I took their advice & applied to the University of Kansas where I graduated with a communications & business degree with a minor in Entrepreneurship. At that time KU did not offer any entrepreneurship degrees, but they did have you take entrepreneurship 101 as a mandatory class for your business degree. The first week in and Ryne & I were absolutely hooked. Then for our final we had to come up with a business that we wanted to invent, and make an entire business plan for it and present it to the class. Our professor then told us that he was going to pick the top 3 businesses and enter them in the Mark Morris Junior New Venture Development competition. Ryne & I’s business that we came up with was chosen to be in the competition, and we ended up placing 2nd. Our professor who was the inventor of Life Saver candy, pulled Ryne & I aside and congratulated us for making it this far, and told us that he saw our passion for entrepreneurship and advised us to never give up. We then went to the head of the business board at KU and told them just how inspired we were from this class and we honestly couldn’t get enough. We wanted to take as many entrepreneurship classes as possible, so we convinced the business board to begin an entrepreneurship minor program where we ended up being the first 2 students from the University of Kansas to graduate with this minor. I’m forever grateful for this class, our professor, and everything we learned from it because it impacted my life in more ways than I could have ever known.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Let me start off by saying for better and worse, I am a Leo to the fullest. I’ve always been very independent from a young age, and I like to do things my way. The thought of working for someone else was never something I wanted to do. However, I wouldn’t say that I was always wanting to be an entrepreneur. I was always inspired by my dad, but I also saw how much blood, sweat, and tears went into starting your own business, so to be honest I was scared of the thought of taking that leap and failing. It wasn’t until after college, that I got my first corporate job, and hated every minute of it. That’s really when it hit me that I felt the urge to follow my dreams and start my own business. I remember thinking that anything is better than this so at this point there really is nothing to lose. Flash forward a year later, and Ryne and I took the terrifying jump of starting our entrepreneur journey that led us to start Festy Besty and now Freshie!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Freshie is currently somewhat of a soft launch in Illinois only which has given us the opportunity to learn more about the business and get our feet wet. Our marketing strategy is similar to our approach to Festy Besty. Our goal is to produce high end digital content and connect with our customers through social media whether it be by the masses or 1 by 1. We are not the big guy, we are just normal people that want to give everyone a better option for the fun days or nights. We are excited to amplify Freshie’s marketing efforts this spring on socials and as well as physical placements in Chicago, Nashville, & Florida.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
To be honest there are too many to say I have just learned from one mistake or challenging time. But… I will say that overall what I have learned is that you just have to keep going with as much funnel vision as possible. It’s important to take 5 minutes to be upset or take off the blinders, but after a few minutes of a pity party it’s time to pick yourself back up and get back after it. If you don’t it can mess up your whole day or even week and so forth.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
The biggest accomplishment I’m most proud of to date is being able to design products & build brands that makes people feel happy, vibrant and positive! One of the best feelings in the world is being at a music festival or concert and seeing people wearing Festy Besty and feeling confident in it! Another amazing feeling is walking into a restaurant or a bar and seeing people drinking Freshies while having a great time with their friends! At the end of the day, creating products that enhance other people’s lives is not only the biggest gift to me but also one of my biggest accomplishments.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
When interviewing for either company we make it more of a casual conversation versus a questionnaire. It’s important to feel out their passion, industry knowledge and people skills.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Festy Besty is a pretty obvious one, no music festivals/concerts have had a major impact on our business. Now Freshie is a way more interesting with the pandemic because the alcohol industry has actually experienced immense growth especially in the seltzer category. Also there have been so many new trends forming like online delivery services, the explosion of Ready-to-drink beverages, and the internet taking over the alcohol industry. In fact both alcohol sales and seltzer sales have been surging through the pandemic!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Now that we officially launched Freshie Organic Tequila seltzer in Chicago, we are now excited to begin expanding to other states and start growing our distribution rapidly. As for Festy Besty, we are going to continue to grow our e-commerce while embracing our community as we move forward in an uncharted live music world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Nothing is guaranteed. Whatever market or business you are in… DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE. Always be thinking of how to be innovative or what’s next for the industry. We chose to always focus a little more on the e-commerce side of Festy Besty which was crucial for us during the pandemic without music festivals. This forward tech thinking translates to the business decisions for the Freshie brand and utilizing new online delivery services like Drizly. Live in the now, but always think in the future!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
There’s no “I’ in team unless you are an entrepreneur. Starting your own business means you have to wear as many hats as possible… even make new hats at the same time. On the flip side, it is important to grow your team anyway possible whether that’s with remote freelancers or limited employees. I try to wear as many hats as possible but overtime I realized the true baller move is to work with experts in their respective fields whether it be design, marketing, etc. Empowering others to help grow your brand can truly take your business to the next level. Not only empowering freelance professionals to be a part of the brand but also encouraging customers to know they are defining the brand too. A lot of time I feel like all the pressure is on me but when I share the brand with others the pressure fades away and makes me realize a brand or business is much bigger than 1 person or set of ideas.
There’s no sick days, there’s no boss to ask questions, or a 9-5 schedule. You basically have an empty canvas to create and build out a strategy for your specific business and approach to success.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
By surrounding myself with family, and friends. Truly taking life back to the basics.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I absolutely believe in the work/life balance, however I wish I was better at it. One thing I do for myself every day is workout & get my body moving. I find when I get any kind of a workout in, it really sets a positive tone for the rest of my day. Also, since creativity is a huge part of both of my businesses, it’s important to take a break every once in a while and have fun! That’s usually when my inspiration begins flooding in.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Whenever I’m in Florida my main goal is to spot a gator in the wild. Super weird, I know.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Create daily to-do lists every day (organize them in order of priority)
- Listen to music in the background to set a vibe.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being a leader with a vision and an undying determination to succeed when following your dreams while hopefully inspiring others to do so as well.